Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Conquest without contribution: sport now second to scandal and salary

Another late summer morning, another punning sport scandal headline graces the front page of the Sun. ‘L.Pee.W’ screamed the red top from Newstands across the country, as news broke that England’s victorious Cricket squad had celebrated their triumph with not so much a sticky wicket as a wet one.

This would have been a big deal whatever the case – the mitigating circumstances put forward by the team (they were drunk and had to ‘answer the call of nature’) introduced the possibility for ‘debate’ necessary for any viral hit and ensured plenty of digital coverage. However, I can’t help but feel that this highlights one of British sport’s most enduring fallacies: why is it that we think of Cricket as the last bastion of sportsmanship?

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What did Trenton Oldfield Mean for Stuntsters?

Back at the start of last week, wherever you turned in mediaworld you found someone sticking their oar in (sorry) to the discussion on wayward idealist Australian Trenton Oldfield and his Pankhurst-esque self-sacrificial boat race stunt. I shan’t bother now to throw in my two cents about the morality of Oldfield’s actions, but I do think that what he has done impacts negatively upon those of us whose business and/or passion it is to grab headlines with acts of disruptive showmanship.

The first thing to say is that this was a pretty bland stunt. What I’m more worried about, however, is what this will do for police and public paranoia in the run-up to the Olympics. Already at boiling point, the police and LOCOG have spent the past few months whipping each other up into a frenzy over crowd control and health and safety. This will only confirm their worst fears. Any innocent reveller or spectator at any event could be a dangerous, subversive madman! Time to send in the thought police.

Generally, too, this event comes as part of a zeitgeist increasingly antithetical to the art of the stunt. The (largely negative) commentary on Oldfield’s actions focused more than almost anything else on how dangerous his actions were, how he endangered his life, how he caused inconvenience in restarting the race. Outrage at his politics would have been much more interesting- not to mention more favourable for his agenda. Caught in a pincer movement between a blandly litigious society on the one hand and a media landscape oversaturated with ill-considered stunts on the other, the public have no appetite for maverick antics.

Perhaps what’s been lost is a belief in the stunt as a piece of fun, a joke, almost a gift. Rather than a piece of direct action or a forcible promotion, a stunt should be playful, gentle and, preferably, crazy. A stunt’s impact comes from laughter, and from the sheer joy that persuades people to share. All the classic stunts share this aspect, whether they be making a serious point- Joey Skagg’s giant bra springs to mind (link)- or selling a bit of fluff like Reichenbach’s T.Arzan (link).

I call for a return not only to creativity in stunting but a permissiveness and relaxation in its execution. In our red-tape age it’s easy to forget that a public performance should be joyful. Whether you’re an activist or a marketer, try and perform, not preach. Theatres are far more fun than churches.

Chisora/Haye- newest casualties of the sports media machine

The Chisora-Haye post fight Brew-ha ha over the weekend was a stark reminder that the world of Boxing provides us with the clearest and noisiest examples of the many pitfalls open to the young sports star. The scuffle between the two men has seen papers of all stripes filled with talk of the ‘disgrace’ in which they’ve left the sport.

Of course, if boxing can indeed be discredited by an out of ring scuffle, its name is already irredeemably muddied. The Guardian and the Mail both took the opportunity to run in one form or another gleeful summaries of past dust-ups, from Tyson and Lewis back to the racially-charged mid 80’s scrapping of Mark Kaylor and Errol Christie. It’s now pretty difficult to talk about the noble sport of the pugilistic gentleman with a straight face.

Where once the great showman Muhammed Ali used pre show/off-ring hype like an artist, whether to catch George Foreman off guard in the Rumble in the Jungle or whipping up long term media coverage around his rivalry with Joe Frazier, the practice has become cheap and often counterproductive.

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The Great Papal Turnaround

Before the Papal three-ring-circus moved into town, I was asked by a number of media outlets what I thought of the Pope’s PR apparatus. At the time, I commented that it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this anachronistic throwback was not fit for modern media purpose. Lacking charisma (in stark contrast with his predecessor, John Paul II), I suggested that Benedict would find it difficult to counter the unease at his tour of Britain. I suggested he was not “God’s Showman” – not instinctively sharp, witty or insightful and with a poor history in delivering the one-liners and sound bites that are the foundation of being a 21st century media success. Read the rest of this entry »

No More Heroes: The media, football and built in obsolescence

Today’s edition of the Sun features an exposé of Wayne Rooney’s recent night on the tiles as his team-mates “completed rigorous pre-season fitness tours”. It is a typically irked and excitable article, chipping away at the veneer of sporting heroism that has been liberally applied to Rooney and his sporting colleagues in the past.

The article is desperate to get people fulminating about spoilt football players in the wake of England’s World Cup flop, on the assumption that these football “legends” are heroes and idols for the nation’s kids who are betraying their legions of fans by going out and being normal. They are doing nothing of the sort. Read the rest of this entry »

England’s World Cup: Hype or Hope?

Forty-eight hours can feel like an eternity when your brand is in the centrifugal force in the maelstrom of public ridicule. In poor old Robert Green’s case, the error he committed by fumbling a save and letting in a dismal equalising goal in the World Cup match against the USA will plague him for the rest of his life.

Still, at least Green is English, where all he faces is ridicule and crushing, sweaty disappointment. In 1994, Columbian footballer Andrés Escobar was murdered after scoring an own goal in the World Cup. If England fail to progress, Green is likely to be vilified by the myopic soccer tribe in full rhetorical flow and be verbally lumped in with paedophiles, murderers and rapists in bitter conversations down the pub.

This despite the fact that, post-match, Green fronted up his error and bravely faced the media, admitting to the gaffe whilst attempting to take control of the narrative. In PR terms, it was a flawless effort in damage limitation. But, reading the papers today, the media continue to sadistically throw salt onto his open wound. We need a scapegoat and Green is the man of the hour. Read the rest of this entry »

Lineker’s Sporting Stance

Top PR marks to Gary Lineker for withdrawing from writing his column for the Mail on Sunday in protest over their handling of the Lord Triesman story. Lineker has done the right thing by distancing himself as effectively as possible from the Mail on Sunday’s stance – even though they have offered him the opportunity to keep the column and still criticise them explicitly.

His departure, from an extremely well paid job, sends the clearest possible signal to the paper’s editorial – and to the paper’s readers – that he is serious when he says: “I think this story goes against the national interest because the country is behind the 2018 bid, in which a lot of people invested a hell of a lot of time.”

Gary Lineker has revealed himself as a British sporting hero once again, thanks to his actions. I wonder if the Mail on Sunday will run the next part of its story about Lord Triesman this coming weekend. Can they really allow themselves to be seen to be going against the national interest? I can’t wait to see…

No Sport Please, We’re British

What a depressing week for lovers of football. What a sorry, sad, insane mess played out by fools and halfwits. Ordinarily, the focus would have been on the big game, Arsenal v. Chelsea. Instead, this weekend, our interest in the game will be for all the wrong reasons. So, instead, I have decided to focus on the American version of football, which reaches its colossal climax on Sunday. I hanker after the hype, showmanship and ballyhoo of the Super Bowl.

US and UK sport have always been different – from the amount of body armour the Americans wear to play what amounts to rugby to the way the world views the different sports on each side of the Atlantic. Whatever your view of American sport, however, there is no doubt they are well ahead of the game when it comes to using social media in cahoots with big sports events. Read the rest of this entry »

Risking the Tiger Woods Economy

I was asked to comment on the fallout from Tiger Woods’s bad week in the press by the Guardian last week – the resulting article appears in today’s Media section and online under the headline In Need of a Tigerish Attorney. I took a critical look at the way he and his lawyer, Mark NeJame, are handling the story. Here’s an excerpt:

“Tiger Woods’s nasty bump on the head after his car’s tussle with a fire hydrant has rendered the golfer mostly speechless. It’s all very well that he’s admitted “transgressions” and muttered an apology, but at the heart of the press release he put out is a cry for silence and privacy. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, who has made his name defending drug offenders and people accused of murder, is the man behind this strategy. The ‘Johnnie Cochran of Central Florida’ has thrown his weight behind the Tiger Woods brand at the formerly squeaky-clean golfer’s darkest hour.

“Attorneys are the new breed of tough image protector – PR spin technicians are losing out to hard-nosed lawyers. But will NeJame’s strategy help his client to regain his flawless veneer of celebrity? Woods’s ignominy is fast becoming one of 2009′s top trending topics and has exposed the media-shy golfer to the dark side of ‘improperganda’.”

To read the full article, click here.

I was also asked for my opinion on the Tiger Woods affair and whether or not he can rebuild his brand’s reputation by Channel 4 News – to read the article, click here.

Quantum Physics and Thierry Henry

The Independent on Sunday published an article of mine yesterday, looking at what could have happened to Thierry Henry had he confessed to handling the ball in the France v Republic of Ireland match last week. The What If? is a classic sci-fi and fantasy conceit borrowing the idea of a multiverse from quantum physics, seeing which way a life might have gone if one small choice had been different. There was, I’ll admit, a certain amount of pleasure to be had applying quantum metaphysics to the lives of footballers and the PR potentials of the changes. Here’s an extract…

“If quantum physics is to be believed, there is quite possibly an alternate Thierry Henry in a parallel universe who has just become a sporting god thanks to ‘fessing up to handling the ball. Heralded as one of the greatest publicity stunts of all time, it would nonetheless change the life of the footballer into that of the fairplay god, the one who rewrote the sporting commandments. Fifa would be shamed into rewarding honesty, not the reverse.”

To read the full article, click here.